As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you. And I will continue to teach you the good and right way.
1 Samuel 12:23. (GILGAL.)1 Samuel 7:8, 9); they were in great need of them; they appear to have thought that he might cease to offer them on account of their past treatment of him, and they entreated him, saying, "Pray for thy servants," etc. (ver. 19). His reply was, "Moreover as for me," etc. Every true Christian, as "a priest unto God," an intercessor with God for his fellow men, ought to adopt this language as his own. It expresses -
I. AN ACKNOWLEDGED OBLIGATION, which -
1. Arises out of the fact that it is one of the principal means of doing good to others - obtaining invaluable blessings for them. Of the fact there can be no doubt (James 5:16). Why it should have been ordained as such a means we cannot fully tell; but it is plainly in accordance with the intimate relationship and mutual dependence of men; teaches them to feel a deeper interest in each other, and puts signal honour upon eminent piety. The principle of mediation pervades all things, human and Divine.
2. Is an essential part of the duty of love which we owe to others; the force of the obligation being determined by the nearness of their relationship, and the extent of their claims upon our love and service - our kindred and friends, our country, mankind.
3. Is often expressly enjoined in the word of God. "Pray one for another" (Luke 11:5; 1 Timothy 2:1). "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask (of God), and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death" (1 John 5:16).
4. Is inculcated by the example of the best men - Abraham, Moses, Job (Job 42:8, 10), Samuel and all the prophets; above all, by the example of our Lord himself, who has prayed for us all, and through whose intercession we present our prayers and hope for their acceptance.
II. A POSSIBLE OMISSION. Intercessory prayer may cease to be offered. It is sometimes omitted from -
1. Want of consideration of others; the worth of their souls, their lost condition, the love of God to them, the ransom that has been given for them. Attention is so absorbed in other objects that they are uncared for. The more we think of them, the more we shall feel and pray for them. "Love for souls as souls is not a passion of earthly growth. It is a holy fire from heaven. But bow can we have it; how can it be begotten in our hard hearts? The only true method is to draw near to them, and to look at them - to look on them in the light of reason and revelation, of immortality and of God" (C. Morris).
2. Deficiency of love and desire for their salvation.
4. Delay in the fulfilment of our requests, and apparent denial of them. But remember that sincere prayer is never offered in vain, and "pray without ceasing." God knows best when and how to answer our petitions.
III. A DEPRECATED SIN. "God forbid that I should" (far be it from me to) "sin against the Lord," etc. The sin of its omission is spoken of in direct relation to him, and consists in -
1. Disregarding his benevolent designs concerning others. "The Lord will not forsake his people," etc. (ver. 22) If he loves them and seeks their welfare, we should do the same.
2. Disobeying his declared will concerning ourselves. He has not only commanded us to intercede for others, but the very position in which he has placed us is a plain indication of his will. "Ye who remember Jehovah, leave yourselves no rest, and give him no rest," etc. (Isaiah 62:6, 7).
3. Burying in the earth the greatest talent that he has intrusted to us.
4. Grieving the Holy Spirit, who is ever inciting those in whom he dwells to "cry unto God day and night." "Quench not the Spirit. Whilst the devout should be urged by these considerations to "continue instant in prayer," others should remember that it is possible to place an improper reliance on the intercessions of the good, especially in expecting to obtain benefit from their prayers whilst they neglect to pray for themselves or walk in "the good and right way." - D.
God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
I. Let us dwell upon HIS HABIT OF INTERCESSION, for it was most manifest in Samuel. We gather this from the text. He says, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." It is clear, therefore, that he had been in the continual habit and practice of praying for Israel. as to the success of Samuel's prayers, read his life, and you will find that he wrought great deliverances for the people. In the seventh chapter of this book we find that the Philistines grievously oppressed Israel, and Samuel bravely called the people together, to consider their condition, and bade them turn from idolatry, and worship the only true God, and promised them his prayers as a boon which they greatly valued. These are his words: "Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord." Samuel's prayers were so prevalent that the very elements were controlled by him.
II. Notice in Samuel's case HIS PROVOCATION TO CEASE FROM INTERCESSION, which provocation he patiently endured.
1. The first provocation was the slight which they put upon himself.
2. Beyond the provocation which came from their slight upon himself he felt wounded by their utter rejection of his solemn protest.
III. Notice Samuel in HIS PERSEVERING INTERCESSION. Though the people thus provoked him he did not cease from prayer for them. When the prophet knew that Saul was hopelessly rejected he did not cease to pray for the nation, but went down to Bethlehem and anointed David, and when David was pursued by the malice of Saul we find him harbouring David at Ramah, and exhibiting the power of prayer in his own house and in the holy place. I pray you, therefore, still persevere in supplication, and be supported in your perseverance by the knowledge that it would be a sin to cease to pray for those who have been the subjects of your petitions. Samuel confesses that it would have been sinful on his part to abstain from intercession. How so? Why, if he ceased to pray for the people, he would be neglecting his office, for God had made him a prophet to the nation, and he must intercede for them or neglect his duty. It would have been a neglect of the Divine glory; for whatever the people might be, God's name was wrapped up in them, and if they did not prosper the Lord would not be glorified in the eyes of the heathen. He could not give up praying for them, for their cause was the cause of God. It would have been a cruelty to souls if he who possessed such a power in prayer had restrained it.
IV. Samuel showed his SINCERITY IN INTERCESSION by corresponding action, for he says in the words of the text, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way." So far from leaving off praying, he would be doubly diligent to teach them; and he did so. After praying for your friends, do try as well as you can to answer your own prayer by using the means which God ordinarily blesses. Some persons make idle prayers, for they use no effort for obtaining their requests. If a husbandman asks for a harvest, he also ploughs and sows, for else his supplications would be hypocritical. If we wish to see our neighbours converted, we shall labour for it in all ways. A man who wishes to shoot birds will, after a while, become expert in the sport, because he will give his mind to it: he will after a little practice become a noted marksman and know all about guns and dogs. A man who wants to catch salmon has his heart set upon his angling, and becomes absorbed in the pursuit. He soon learns how to use his rod and how to manage his fish. So he who longs to win souls, and puts his heart into it, finds out the knack of it by some means, and the Lord gives him success. There is a power in your gifts; there is a power in your speech; use these powers.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist.I. ITS EFFICACY GENERALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. They felt that his words, if weak on earth, were mighty in heaven. Now this feeling implies their belief in the efficacy of intercessory prayer, and I make three remarks concerning this belief.
1. It is very common. There is nothing peculiar in the belief that one man on earth may have power in heaven to help his fellow men. In truth, it is so common that I am almost disposed to regard it as one of the intuitive faiths of humanity. Priesthoods are everywhere, and this faith is the foundation of all priesthoods.
2. Divinely warranted. In truth, if it be an inborn faith, it must be Divinely warranted; for Heaven evermore encourages all that is truly natural. We find the Divine warrant in the numerous exhortations addressed to us in the Word of God to pray for our fellow men.
3. Sadly abused. It is abused by those who trust to it irrespective of their own efforts
II. ITS NEGLECT DEPRECATED AS A SIN: — "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." It is the ordinance of God that man should assist his fellow man, not merely by bringing his best influences to bear upon his mind, but by offering up his best desires to heaven on his behalf. This being the law, to neglect it is a sin.
1. It serves to impress society with the solemnity of man's existence. Surely, here in a world where the millions are grubbing in what is material and drudging with their hands, it is something to elevate us into stately seriousness to feel that there are men like Samuel endowed with powers to touch the heart of God, and so move the springs of history.
2. It serves to unite men together in spiritual interest. Mutual intercessory prayers are, of all influences, the most socially uniting.
3. It serves to nurture the deepest philanthropy. True intercession is philanthropy exercising itself in the very presence of God. Where can it get a higher inspiration or a stronger impulse?
Sketches of four hundred sermons.The sentiments of the text are, that prayer for others is a duty, and the neglect of it is a sin. We will therefore inquire —
I. WHO ARE THE INDIVIDUALS FOR WHOM WE SHOULD PRAY?
1. For our families.
2. For the Church of God.
3. For our country.
4. For the world.What an awful state is the world in, notwithstanding all the attempts which are made to mend it!
II. STATE THE ARGUMENTS FOR THE ADOPTION OF SUCH PRACTICE.
1. We are related to each other, and therefore we should pray for one another.
2. We are dependent on each other's exertions for a subsistence. Some talk of being independent, but this is absurd. "The king himself is served by the field" (Ecclesiastes 5:9).
3. The practice of praying for others will serve to keep alive in our hearts the most benevolent feelings towards them.
4. This practice may promote their salvation.
III. WE MAY OMIT TO PRAY FOR OTHERS. The text is sufficiently indicative of this.
1. We may omit to pray for others through unconcern about our own salvation.
2. We may do it through unbelief in reference to the efficacy of prayer.
3. We may do it through prejudice.
IV. THAT OUR CEASING TO PRAY FOR OTHERS IS A SIN AGAINST THE LORD.
1. It is a sin against the precepts of the Lord (1 Timothy 2:1, 2).
2. Against the spirit of the Lord. The Holy Ghost works in our hearts feelings of benevolence and love, which give birth to prayer.
3. Against the example of the Lord.Learn —
1. What straits people are brought into by their sinful conduct.
2. None can help us in our distress but God.
3. People in affliction are glad to have the prayers of those whom they have treated with insult before.
4. Good men pray for those who have despitefully used them.
(Sketches of four hundred sermons.)
But I will teach you the good and the right wayI. FIRST, THEN, LET US CONSIDER THE DUTIES INCULCATED; and they are two fold.
1. With respect to the ministers of God. Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, considering the state of the people, exclaimed, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way." To a similar effect the apostle declared, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word." These are the peculiar duties of the ministers of God, — prayer, and the ministry of the Word. Sweet is the work to those who know it, delightful is the duty of intercessory prayer. Of all those men of God whose histories are recorded in Holy Scripture, there is not one who did not delight in this duty.
2. The ministry of the Word: "I will teach you the good and the right way" So said the inspired prophet Samuel; so said a long line of faithful men of God, many of whom sealed their testimony with their blood; so said the apostles of Jesus Christ; and so say the ministers of God to this day. And is there presumption or affectation in saying, "We will teach you the good and the right way?" It would indeed be presumption if we conceived that we had chalked out that way for ourselves, or if it were the notions of man we had to teach you; but we know the good and the right way, and are able to testify to you that which we have seen, and that which we have believed. Revelation has taught us, and we know there is but one way, one good way, one true way; and that all other ways lead to the chambers of darkness and despair. And if these are our duties, what are yours? Mark the exhortation of the prophet in the text, "Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart." This brief sentence contains the whole duty of man! "Only fear the Lord," said he to the tumultuous people; we stop to inculcate no other principle; if we gain your heart, we gain the whole man; we know all must follow; we know that the man who fears God has the grand principle of moral duty in him. If he wants the fear of God, he wants everything! he wants the cement of social society, that which binds man to man, which gives peace and comfort him, and gilds the grave itself with hope. This is the standing or falling principle, "Only fear the Lord;" then your conscience shall be enlightened by the Spirit of God, your heart shall bend to the will of God. The noble testimony of Joseph's steward, to the trembling brethren is our guarantee, "I fear God!" Such a man will be a lover of justice, a lover of truth, and of everything that is honourable and of good report; whereas all others are as garnished sepulchres — they have sweet words in their mouths, but war in their hearts. Here is our security and our comfort; "only fear God." The other expressions in the text are but expletives of this duty: "Only fear the Lord, and serve Him." If a man fears God, he will be the servant of God, and he will serve Him in prayer and praise; he will serve Him with the best member that he has, with his body, soul, and spirit, consecrating all he has to His glory, not with hypocrisy, but "in truth."
II. Let us then CONSIDER THE INSPIRING MOTIVE WHICH IS IMPLIED IN THE TEXT, FOR THE CHEERFUL DISCHARGE OF THESE DUTIES. Ofttimes the strongest appeal to the feelings and the affection is contained in one short sentence, or a suggestion conveyed by a single word; thus in the text: "Consider how great things the Lord hath done for you!" Now, let me transfer this appeal to you; let me apply it to your hearts and consciences as a motive; and I know of no stronger; if this fail, the treasury of God Himself is exhausted! He asks you to love Him, to fear and serve Him; and He does not place before you the terrors of hell, nor the fearful things of judgment to come, nor a world in flames; nor does He upbraid you by the stings of a guilty conscience; but He appeals to your love and affection! and He says, "Consider how great things the Lord hath done for you!" Hard must be that man's heart, ungrateful his bosom, who can look back over a whole life and not see one trace of the goodness of God, who can discern no token of Divine love, no sweet things mingled with his bitterness, nothing to allay his afflictions. Think of the spiritual mercies also which you have received at his hands. There are very few who are altogether unconscious of God's mercies to them in this respect. But the argument of Samuel on this occasion was a national argument: his exhortation was a national exhortation; and, therefore, I shall avail myself of it, and consider the words of the text in this point of view applicable to us all as a nation. "Consider, I pray you, how great things the Lord hath done for you." And is it, possible that anyone can be so ignorant or so wilfully blind as to deny that there has been a special providence over Great Britain, and that special mercies have been poured down on her? Has not our little island been floating on a see of mercy?
(F. Clogs, M. A.)
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